Legendary singer Mohammad Rafi who ruled the hearts of music lovers not only in India but across South Asia continue to connect people through his music even after 40 years of his passing away. The magic of Md. Rafi’s valvetty voice and the indelible mark it imprinted on the Indian music industry continue to inspire millions of music lovers acrross the world. Known as ‘king of melody’ is remembered on his 43rd death anniversary for his unmatchable and fascinating musical range, voice clarity, pleasantness of pitch and exquisite tone and much more. ANM Journalist Shri Ram Shaw caught up with several celebrities in Bollywood that have worked with him including Rafi’s son Shahid Rafi, music maestros Kalyanji, Pyarelal, singers Udit Narayan, Aroon Bakshi and many others to share their memories with the golden voice of the silver screen
Meastro of Bhajan and Ghazals
According to distinguished music composer Pyarelal (75) of Laxmikant-Pyarelal combo, no singer that can replace Rafi. Over a leisurely chat, he brought the whole era alive. “Rafi was an amazing human being. He was a topnotch singer and so down to earth. As soon as he stepped into the studio, even singers like Kishore Kumar would stand up in his honour. “Agar woh log achche insaan nahin hote, toh woh gaane itne khoobsoorat nahin ban paate…” Pyarelal puts it poignantly, “My father once took me to Rafi sahib’s house to ask for money during our bad times. After I became a composer, I worked with Rafi sahib and Lataji on the song ‘Yeh dil tum bin kahin lagta nahi, hum kya kare’. I remember I had to give Rs 500 to both of them. But he refused and asked me to keep the money as their blessing.”
Noted Music composer Anandji Virji Shah (87) of Kalyanji-Anandji fame recalled their association with him as a “versatile singer”.He said, “Rafiji was a good human being and a dedicated person. He gave some of the beautiful renditions to the Bollywood music. He was a complete package and could sing any composition effortlessly and flawlessly. He knew how to blend emotions and melody perfectly, and gave the right treatment to each song, which resulted in thousands of soulful songs.”
A Humble person with a melodious voice
Shahid Rafi, son of the late singer Mohd. Rafi recalled how the unlettered singer would politely turn down requests for autographs as his fame grew.
“He even sang songs in English. Not a bad feat at all for a singer who struggled with even English. He began practising his signature diligently and when Ammi (mother) inquired why he was wasting reams of paper, he told her that he did not want to deprive his fans and so was learning to sign his name in English. Soon he began signing autographs in English also. It came as a great compliment for all his efforts when a journalist mentioned that he had the best signature in the industry.”
Famous playback singer Udit Narayan, who got the chance to sing with Rafi in the film ‘Unees Bees’, says, ‘‘Mohammed Rafi sahib created a unique musical artistic identity and niche for each music composer whose compositions he sang. His voice conveyed every intricate human emotion with such subtle care, artistic dexterity, exquisite pleasantness and unique artistic creativity that it influenced and overpowered the hearts and souls of millions of music lovers all over the world. He had infused life into the poetry written by legendary poets, songwriters with the power of his supreme capabilities as a musical genius and marvelous singer.”
He has the distinction of being the first playback singer of all times to be featured in the pioneering list of the Guinness Book of World Records, for having sung the highest number of songs, which is a total of 26,000 songs, in Hindi and other languages.
In 1948, on the fateful day when the father of the Indian nation, Mahatma Gandhi passed away, famous poet Rajendra Krishan wrote, “Bapu ki Amar kahani”. It was also sung by Rafi on the very same day on All India Radio (AIR). It left millions of listeners of AIR in tears.
An unparalleled patriotic singer
“Mohammed Rafi was an Angel for many. He was very soft spoken, seldom angry, very humble. He was a very pious person. He believed in the concept of simple living and high thinking. During his lifetime Mohammed Rafi had donated immeasurable money in charity, noble causes for the country,’’ says Aroon Bakshi, well-known actor-singer.
“He was a true patriot of India and he believed in our country’s secular values and our rich culture, tradition and heritage. The boundaries of religion, caste, creed, richness, poverty, economic class, language and politics were beyond the legendary stature of Mohammed Rafi. There were numerous instances when he bought expensive imported Dialysis equipment to our country to assist charity hospitals that served ailing kidney patients. Mohd.Rafi was an ideal man with lofty ideals and esteemed values for which he was ready to face anything,” Bakshi added. He was not in favour of taking royalties of his songs on which he had a clash with other singers at that time.
For three years, Rafi and Lata did not sing duets or speak with each other. It was the most dignified silence over clash of principles. They refused to sing songs together. Only after Nargis Dutt insisted they finally made up at a stage concert and sang Dil Pukare from the film Jewel thief, composed by SD Burman.
For Music Director Pyarelal Mohammad Rafi was a very passionate singer, he always welcomed and promoted the new talent in the industry. Because of his humbleness and behaviour he still continues to rule the music world.